Archive for July, 2006

Orioles can’t play well with others
July 31, 2006

So the Orioles entertained several offers for Miguel Tejada the last week, one of which looked like a no brainer if accurately reported (Roy Oswalt, Adam Everett, Morgan Ensberg) but in the end, nothing happens. The debate though over whether the O’s should or shouldn’t move Tejada is not the point right now.

The problem over the last several days seems to be the perception that the Orioles front office wasted the time of several other clubs. I doubt that Mike Flanagan & Jim Duquette ever intended such harm, but spending hours and hours trying to get a deal, even believing you have one in place, then to see it quashed only deters teams from working with Baltimore in the future.

Reports say Peter Angelos ultimately killed all deals, but in allowing his front office to negotiate even though he wasn’t ever interested in trading Tejada seriously impairs the credibilty of his executives. He left them hanging in the wind, having to apologize for saying no. Hard to believe the O’s are on their way to a 9th consecutive losing season.

e-mail Pete

Camping Monday Morning
July 31, 2006

The first day of full pads, like the first snow of winter, or the first Bengals arrest of the off season, let’s you know the time is now.

Few rookies expect to make much of an impact this season, but the one that must make his presence known is defensive tackle Haloti Ngata. Good news Ravens fans Ngata showed from the first 11-on-11 drill of the morning he has every tool to rule the line of scrimmage (caveat: I know it’s only July, he’s just a rookie, and there’s a long way to go but..).

On one play Ngata tossed Adam Terry around like a toy poodle leaving last year’s massive 2nd round pick to try and pick himself up off the grass. The next play saw Ngata blow by Terry, then simply engulf running back Musa Smith. Ray Lewis celebrated with Ngata like they just stuffed the Steelers on 4th and 1.

Just about every team in the league lines up with a huge defensive tackle. But few of them possess the explosiveness to match their own girth. The knock on Ngata is a supposed penchant for taking plays off. I talked with Aaron Fentress, a reporter from the Oregonian that covered Ngata in college,e and he dismissed that claim thanks to ignorance. On plays where Ngata seemed to do nothing his job was to drop a few yards into coverage. Not much of a role for a 340 pound man so naturally he looked a little lost. And if Ngata does dog it at all during a game, Ravens linebacker Bart Scott says the huddle will be a lonely place. The players police any transgressions like that themselves and Ngata would have to pay a price.

Another rookie of interest is wide receiver Demetrius Williams. Again, plenty of tools. He can flat out burn down the sidelines and has the hands to go make plays. And best of all, he seems to own no fear of contact, in fact he encourages it. A very different attitude than that of Clarence Moore. Look for Williams to win the job as 3rd wide receiver.

One last thing, GREAT BALLS OF FIRE IT’S HOT!! Fortunately the Ravens will continue to practice a little earlier until the heat breaks with session one beginning at 8:15 A.M.

The Buzz is Back
July 28, 2006

Hosting Sportsline on WBAL Radio several times the last couple of weeks gave me the chance to gauge the pulse of Baltimore sports fans. I have been surprised at the level of continued interest (mostly engulfed in anguish) in the Orioles and frankly shocked at the lack of buzz surrounding the Ravens. I did two hours of football talk on Saturday July 8th and received just two phone calls. When I switched over to trade talk with the Birds the lines lit up like Ricky Williams on vacation.

That left me curious to see whether day one of training camp for the Ravens would bring out the fans like years past. Hey, they’re coming off a 6-10 season.

The question was quickly answered under the stifling heat in Westminster, they’re back. The fans lined the practice field, cheering when plays were made or simply if Ray Lewis walked anywhere nearby. The official attendance for the morning session was 2,530. A solid showing and no doubt the tip of the iceberg.

What the fans saw was a refreshed, healthy, and happy Ray Lewis. He sent a message to everyone about his intentions this season. With the furnace on full blast Ray donned full body spandex underneath his uniform. The heat means nothing he seemed to cry, we have work to do.

The sweating masses also enjoyed their first look at Steve McNair, in person, in a Ravens uniform. And given that nobody wore full pads, and the speed of practice held somewhere around 70%, he delivered what the fans wanted to see. A man in control of his game, his arm, and his team.

The first half of day one is not much on which to judge anything, but these Ravens are off to a good start, certainly better than last years. A this time in 2005 their 2nd round pick Dan Cody had already torn up his knee, an injury that cost him the season.

Next Up
July 24, 2006

Watching Tiger Woods once again dominate a major, once again play his best while the rest of the field not named Chris DiMarco looked into the eyes of Tiger and disappeared like Mark McGwire after the Congressional steroid hearings, you know… quietly, watching Tiger showed the full promise of a child prodigy fulfilled, again.

There may never be another player like him. One so driven from the time he could stand as an 18 month old and began to swing a club.

But we will keep our eyes open.

It’s a long haul from showing some sort of promise as a toddler. In fact lots of kids can swing a club with a bit of success (thanks youtube). Sifting through the clips brings a smile to my face, probably as much because I’m a new dad as because of any talent. But then I received a video recording from some proud grandparents in Columbia, MD.

The Bredthauers, with actually an amazing amount of restraint, bragged only a little but wrote that it was worth taking a look. Their grandson Carson Hall they explained, at just 30 months of age, was pretty darn good (he lives in Philadelphia).

Go ahead and take a look for yourself here.

One word, three letters, WOW! The hand eye coordination is completely remarkable. Carson hits it great from the tee, off the mat with an iron, with ridiculous efficiency out of the sand (likely better than about 85 percent of the golfing population) and proves to have already learned, you drive for show but putt for dough.

The best part of watching Carson though is to see how much fun he’s having. His dad Scott may give him the tools and take him to the golf facility but it doesn’t appear in any way that Carson is being forced.

I look forward to shooting a story with Carson sometime soon, curious to meet the talented toddler and see in person just how well he plays. But we’ll hold off on calling him a prodigy. Showcasing the talent is a big part of that term, but only the beginning. It’s a long way to go to become Tiger Woods.

Disorderly Diagnosis
July 17, 2006

First off, this entry in no way wishes to disparage people with mental diseases or the belief that they are real. I’m no Tom Cruise. That said, it seems that we may be heading as a society a little too far away from personal accountability. The latest example of that coming from a Baltimore Sun article on the recently accredited mental disorder Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED). The disorder claims responsibility for people who get angry, somewhat spontaneously, and act on it.

So when Zinedine Zidane head butted Marco Materazzi, it wasn’t Zidane’s fault, simply a case of IED.

Now rather than more harrumphing on people taking credit for their own actions, the story got me thinking about other sports figures that could clearly use IED as a defense at trial. Here’s a small list:

Earl Weaver
George Brett
Terrell Owens
Tony Stewart
Carl Everett
George Steinbrenner
John McEnroe
Gary Williams

Then there are those that have yet to ever really explode but with just a little more provocation, say from the win-loss column, a diagnosis of IED will be needed:

Sam Perlozzo
Brian Billick
Ralph Friedgen
Joe Torre

The Sun article also takes a look at a proposed disorder for the revised manual due for publication in 2011. And this is really fun to imagine.

“…one doctor is proposing a new diagnosis, relational disorder, which she summarizes as a dysfunctional relationship in which ‘neither person is mentally ill but the relationship is.”

That’s right. It’s not you that’s sick, rather a concept. An ethereal, intangible, bond gets needs treatment, but you still get the bill. Now some examples of that:
Brad & Jen, the two Hollywood superstars seem as likeable as ever, both doing good works for the world but together no more. Lance & Sheryl surprised everyone with their breakup. Hard to find two more down to earth, talented, celebrities the relationship ate them up.

How about the opposite? Courtney Love & Kurt Cobain (at least for a while), this one for sure; Daniel Snyder and Joe Gibbs. How those two make it work is an absolute mystery.

The article also encouraged me to come up with some disorders of my own. No doubt in my mind that Bill Buckner was infected with PMFD (Prolonged Misery Facilitator Disease). That list to also include Steve Bartman, Peter Angelos, and Isiah Thomas.
Not there yet but certainly giving a shot at a diagnosis of PMFD, Nationals G.M. Jim Bowden…

Another ailment that puzzles docs, and the treatment remains elusive, ADD. Not Attention Deficit Disorder, but rather Accuracy Disappearance Disorder. For no earthly reason once skilled marksman can no longer find the target. Clear possessors of this affliction include Rick Ankiel, Mark Wohlers, and Steve Sax. And bad news for Oriole fans, possibly on the way to ADD is Daniel Cabrera. He seeks treatment north of the border at Triple A Ottawa

One last disorder I’m sure will be ready for 2011 is CEA. Column Ending Anxiety, yours truly the recipient, because I can’t ever find a good way to conclude a piece. No nice clean way to wrap things up. The thoughts just keep rolling around like lottery ping pong balls. Seriously, I need help. It just won’t….

e-mail Pete

Three and Out
July 13, 2006

e-mail Pete

Three years. What is the amount of time given to determine whether a player in the NFL will make it? Not sure why this one starts out like Jeopardy but sometimes these things just happen.

Kyle Boller learned the hard way, like the salary cap and pie, three is a hard number.
His time in the limelight has ended with the Ravens, what about the next crop staring at the number three?

The Ravens draft class of 2004 has one more season to sink or swim, and judging by production thus far, they can’t find their floatees.

Seven players drafted, none in the first round, and so far none topping the depth chart at their position. Oddly, Baltimore seemed to draft better as the event went on. The Ravens first pick, 51st overall in the 2nd round, was Dwan Edwards. The defensive tackle from Oregon State has spent most of his career inactive. 17 career tackles, no sacks, and his lack of emergence caused the Ravens to draft a defensive tackle and sign another in the off-season. He may not get the chance to swim.

In round three Baltimore selected wide receiver Devard Darling. He offers a similar professional resume to Edwards. Inactive or injured for 19 of 32 games, two catches for five yards in the 13 in which he suited up. Darling though will get a shot to hang around this season. The Ravens need a number three receiver and Darling will compete with Demetrius Williams, and Clarence Moore (see later in column on Moore) for the job. Williams, a rookie from Oregon shows the most promise but then again, they said the same thing about Darling two years ago.

Nothing in the fourth round, then in the fifth linebacker Roderick Green. A solid special teams player is Green and a decent fill in but the biggest play so far of his career is outrunning some psycho at a bowling alley and fortunately sustaining just minor knife wound injuries.

A pair of picks in the 6th round for Baltimore. Quarterback Josh Harris, who never dressed and is no longer on a league roster, and wide receiver Clarence Moore. Moore showed signs he might turn into something special, then didn’t. Short arming balls over the middle and cringing are acts that fail to inspire in pee-wee, much less at M&T Bank Stadium. His work ethic and dedication have also come into question.

In the 7th round, also 2 selections for Baltimore. Kick return specialist Derek Abney never stayed healthy and like Josh Green has no home right now in the league. Then with the 246th overall the Ravens grabbed who, to date, has played the most. 15 games played with seven starts (all coming last season) and the possibility of taking over at right guard on a permanent basis. Any significant contribution from a player past round five earns high praise and Rimpf fits perfectly because he has some talent and a cap equal to what Steve Bisciotti might tip a caddy.

But there you go; arguably the best pick for the Ravens was originally an afterthought. For a team so astute at making the most of high draft picks (the first two in franchise history will be hall of famers and that alone gives them a free pass for a decade) and finding hidden gems late, the 2004 draft is a flat out miss. But most of the picks remain with the team, still with a chance to prove worthy. In six months though, when that nasty deadline of three years arrives, much of this anonymous class may find the fate of Kyle Boller seems not so bad. He still has a job.

Family Night at Camden Yards
July 10, 2006

As we head into the All-Star break a look at the Orioles first half may require some form of pain reliever. 14 games out of first, eight games under .500 and only a game and a half up on Tampa in the fight not to finish last in the A.L. East. The overbearing weight of the journey to a 9th consecutive losing season makes it hard to breath for Orioles fans.

So we could talk about the frustrating rotation or the happy, sad, happy saga of Miguel Tejada. There are though positives over which to peruse. You have to love the play of Nick Markakis and the best move thus far for the Flanagan-Duquette era, no doubt the acquisition of Ramon Hernandez. Plenty of pop and more disruptive to base stealers than four inch high heels. I won’t call it a crime that he’s left off the A.L. All-Star roster but a grand jury could have indicted.

But after all that, I’m changing the subject. Still on board with the Birds but I want to share a Camden Yards experience. For years I’ve heard fans complain about the way they are treated at Oriole Park. That the ushers are rude, you can’t stand and cheer, that they cater to visiting fans with far greater enthusiasm than for those cheering the orange and black.

I attend about 4-5 games a season in the stands and have yet to endure any such problems but when you hear enough people complaining, there must be some credibility.

That said, I took my kids to their first Orioles game a couple of weeks ago. A major endeavor for my wife and me as we each strapped a 9 month old twin into a Baby Bjorn, lugged along an overflowing diaper bag, and made the hike into the stadium.

And then the surprising pleasantries from the stadium staff. After purchasing tickets an usher approached asking if this was the twins first game at Camden Yards. We shared that it was and he then directed us to fan services where we could receive certificates documenting the momentous occasion. The employee did so with genuine excitement for us. For those non parent readers (like TV-11 producer Chris Dachille who looked confused and maybe even a little sad for me when I shared this story because how could a stupid piece of paper mean anything), trust me, little tokens like that actually mean a lot.

Anyway, problems with the Orioles on the field aside, this made for a great family experience. Although the fact my daughter loved the game, laughing throughout, and my son cried most of the night has been a little tough to swallow. Don’t worry son, we’ll try again.

Tejada Turmoil
July 3, 2006

What to do, what to do, what to do? Miguel Tejada remains one of the best players in baseball, when focused, yet his attitude and suspect effort continue to help bring the Orioles down.

Okay, the Orioles have brought themselves down with a myriad of foul-ups only a Kansas City fan may truly appreciate. But if Baltimore is to regroup, and there are enough signs of progress from within, can Miguel Tejada lead that resurgence?

Most experts say you don’t get better by trading your best player. O’s V.P. Jim Duquette made that abundantly clear last week on WBAL Radio’s Sportsline (I figure if I promote the show enough they’ll keep letting me fill in). However Tejada’s behavior the last 11 months has me convinced the Orioles path to recovery is best suited without him.

He stopped leading, he routinely dogs it on grounders (the time will come when the throw is wild and he can’t take 2nd base because he has yet to reach first), and with the glove, while occasionally spectacular Tejada’s 11 errors this season are more than all but three Major League shortstops. And what about hitting in the clutch? 21 times Tejada’s grounded into a double play. His career high in that dubious category is 26.

But this rant is less about stats and much more about his sulking demeanor. We don’t know all the issues to lead Tejada down this path. We know Rafael Palmeiro connecting him to the steroid scandal last year hurt and he feels let down by the club for not surrounding him with better talent. So what! Be a professional.

I take that one personally. Nobody cares when I’ve had only two hours sleep because my nine month old twins cried all night. I don’t start a sportscast complaining about that then mail in the segment. I’m getting paid to do a job regardless.

Go ahead get some value while it still exists at an elite level. His suitors know if put on an already winning team he’ll bounce back looking like the Miggy of old. Add to the young talent that’s finally arriving through the system. Look at the number of homegrown players now dotting the Camden Yards landscape. Brian Roberts, Chris Ray, Nick Markakis, Jay Gibbons, Erik Bedard, Daniel Cabrera. Plus Melvin Mora, Ramon Hernandez, Corey Patterson, and Kris Benson as very nice additions complete a rather decent core around which to build, in particular if you add some serious talent in a trade of Tejada.

There are enough problems with this franchise without a miserable superstar making things worse. And to those that ask how can you trade your best player what exactly are you afraid of? A losing season? Way too late for that.